Trenton, New Jersey (CNN) - Gov. Chris Christie pledged to make New Jersey's largest payment ever to the state's pension plan as he presented his budget for fiscal year 2015 at the state house Tuesday afternoon.
With a hoarse voice, Christie said, "Today, I present to you a budget that is balanced, and, for the fifth year in a row, requires no new taxes on the people of New Jersey."
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The Republican governor received a standing ovation from elected officials on both sides of the aisle, including some of his most ardent critics, as he entered the room. He exchanged niceties with Assemblyman John Wisniewski and greeted state Sen. Loretta Weinberg with a smile, a hearty handshake and a kiss on the cheek. The two Democrats co-chair the special committee investigating the role members of Christie's administration played in the lane closures that caused massive traffic jams at the Fort Lee, New Jersey entrance to the George Washington Bridge during four days last September.
Christie has denied knowing anything about the gridlock until after it occurred, and has said he knew nothing about any political mischief by members of his administration. He's also facing allegations by the Democratic mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, that members of his administration held Superstorm Sandy recovery funds hostage in exchange for approval of a real estate development project in that city.
The multiple controversies have shaken Christie's political future, which may include a 2016 bid for the Republican presidential nomination. And the governor continues to take hits in public opinion polls, with a new survey this week indicating his approval rating at just 49% among registered voters, down from 65% late last year, soon after his landslide re-election victory as governor.
He announced a $2.25 billion deposit for public employee pensions. At the same time discretionary spending in this budget is $2.2 billion less than was in 2008.
While the pension contribution is a dramatic increase over those made in recent years the governor warned of a looming crisis. He said pensions, health benefits and debt obligations account for nine out of every 10 dollars in this budget.
"We are in danger of having these costs overwhelm our budget, monopolize our resources, and threaten our ability to continue to fund the priorities we care about most," said Christie.
Having already raised the retirement age for government employees Christie said aggressive reforms were needed. He called on local municipalities to consolidate services and offered an incentive, an $8.5 million reimbursement if they go along with the idea.
Even so the governor held the line on not raising taxes, saying it wasn't an option. He touted cuts that deliver "more than $1.2 billion in direct property tax relief to New Jersey homeowners, seniors, and disabled residents." He also spoke of of $600 million in tax relief for New Jersey businesses.
"With our long-term obligations only set to increase in the coming years, the problem isn't going away by itself," Christie said. "We must do what we were sent here to do by the people – lead and act decisively once again."
The governor also called for managing health care costs more effectively, citing that five percent of Medicaid recipients account for 50% of the costs in the state.
New Jersey's schools will get more money if this budget is approved by the legislature. It includes $9 billion in direct funding to schools, an increase of nearly $40 million according to Gov. Christie.
Very pathetic guy.
To a NJ republican, debt doesn't matter.